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Step aside, Jon Rahm, the battle for global domination in men’s golf doesn’t involve you.
Hovland reached a career-high fifth in the OWGR after a T4 finish at last week’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and has been touted by many as a future World No. 1. And it's safe to say he has made a big impression on Sky’s ‘Radar’ Riley. When asked who, out of Hovland and Morikawa, would be dominating in 10 years, the affable on-course commentator was steadfast in his response.
He said: “It’s Hovland for me. I feel as though right now Morikawa is a better player than Viktor Hovland because he is a short-game guru, and that’s what Viktor Hovland has to work on to get to where Morikawa is. But I think Viktor is very, very special and I think he will hunt him down.
“Is it going to be a Tiger versus Phil or Tiger versus Ernie battle, let’s hope so. Our game is in a healthy spot - there are kids like this all over the place playing very well and it’s keeping everyone watching golf.”
While it’s hard not to admire Riley’s enthusiasm and confidence in Hovland, there are a couple of things to unpack in what he said. One being the very loose use of the term, “short-game guru.”
Morikawa may be many things, but a short-game guru is not one of them. Last year, the American ranked 86th on the PGA Tour in Strokes Gained: Around The Green, the best he’s fared since turning pro in 2019. Couple that with his tendency as a streaky putter does not make him worthy of such a lofty title.
What does make him worthy of adulation is what he does en route to the putting surface - in particular his prowess with an iron in hand. Not since Tiger was in his pomp has someone made this part of the game look so simple. It’s for this reason Morikawa doesn’t need to be a short-game guru. On the PGA Tour last season, he was the only player to gain, on average, more than one stroke per round against the field approaching the green.
The second thing is that neither Hovland nor Morikawa are, or have ever been, World No. 1. That’s not to say they won’t ever get there but a certain Spaniard is doing a pretty good job of holding dominion over the position. And then there's the hoard of other superstars lying in wait.
As for Hovland himself, he’s not too bothered about scaling that particular mountain, admitting he'll be happy as long as he's playing well.
“Of course I’d love to [reach World No. 1] but I’m going to have fun with this game regardless,” he said. “If it happens or not it’s more about playing well and trying to lift some trophies.
“If it comes, it comes. If not, I’m sure I’ll be happy regardless.”
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A lifelong golf fan, Andy graduated in 2019 with a degree in Sports Journalism and got his first role in the industry as the Instruction Editor for National Club Golfer. From there, he went on to enjoy a spell freelancing for Stats Perform producing football reports, and then for RacingNews365 covering Formula 1. However, he couldn't turn down the opportunity to get back into the sport he grew up watching and playing and now covers a mixture of equipment, instruction and news for Golf Monthly's website and print title.
Andy took up the game at the age of seven and even harboured ambitions of a career in the professional ranks for a spell. That didn’t pan out, but he still enjoys his weekend golf at Royal Troon and holds a scratch handicap. As a side note, he's made five holes-in-one and could quite possibly be Retief Goosen’s biggest fan.
As well as the above, some of Andy's work has featured on websites such as goal.com, dailyrecord.co.uk, and theopen.com.
What's in Andy's bag?
Driver: Callaway Mavrik Sub-Zero (9°)
3-wood: TaylorMade Stealth 2 Plus (15°)
Driving iron: Titleist U500 (17°)
Irons: Callaway Apex Pro '19 (4-PW)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM9 (50°, 54° and 58°)
Putter: TaylorMade Spider X
Ball: TaylorMade TP5x
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